Century Old Button Accordion Restoration Project
When I was about eight years of age, an old button accordion was given to me by a neighbor. His name was George Kehoe. He seemed to be in his 70's when he gave me this accordion. At the time, I believed that it had been his own instrument, having brought it with him from Germany. But, he had become deaf and wanted someone to have it who would appreciate the music that it could create.

I took good care of it and played it nearly every day, probably driving everyone around me a little crazy. It took about a year for me to get the "Ohm-Pa" (Bass) end of it going. I played it regularly, until I was out of High School. By then, it was really showing its age and the many years of enjoyment. Eventually, it was shelved and remained in that state until recently.

In the summer of 2003, I decided to restore it into playable condition. It had become badly out of tune, playing somewhere between Db and D, and not at all together. The major part of the restoration was to bring it back into the pitch of D. That process required tuning all 60 of the reeds, which was done with a pattern file and a tuning meter. The reeds were all tuned in place although each reed plate had to be reversed in its mounting hole so that the opposite reed could be accessed for tuning. In a few days, it was 100% tuned and the reeds were all re-waxed in.

What now appears as wood was originally painted black. It was badly cracked and scuffed. After considering several options, it was simply sanded it down to the natural wood and varnished. The wood looks like Poplar, to me. But, I am not sure.

Some of the bellows papers were worn though. Replacement bellows papers were made by scanning a good section of the original then fiddling with the colors and contrast until it printed a tolerable duplication. The "Concertone" decal was also made on the computer.

The last stage was to strip and replace all of the bellows tape. When completed, it was left to dry overnight. It had just been put back together when I was visited by Allison. She seemed quite interested and wanted to give it a try. It was an irresistible photo opportunity.

Having not played it for a long time, the technique seemed to have escaped me. But, after a few days, I managed to squeeze out a few simple tunes.

copyright 2003 - 20015 Arleigh B. Baker - all rights reserved - last update: December 15, 2015

Return to Arleigh's Home Page